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Paul Revere and Collaboration
Alex Steffen, 2 May 04

Wendell Berry says "All good work remembers its history." What did Paul Revere understand about distributed collaboration?

IDEAS: "How might ordinary citizens use gadgets like Wi-Fi laptops, smartphones, and PDAs to respond to terrorist threats?

STEPHENSON: "Everything we're learning about the failure of government agencies to share information on terrorist plots in time to prevent them indicates that what's called for today is not only new communication methods but a new mindset. Instead of top-down, tightly controlled communication, when it comes to homeland security what we need is a network like the Internet, which empowers individuals and links everyone together. A system like the one that lets PalmPilot owners download breaking news to read on the go, for example, could allow citizen volunteers to download real-time information in case of emergencies. We could also learn from the US military to set up "mesh" networks -- in which wireless devices are programmed to seek each other out, bouncing phone calls and e-mails from point to point during crises. But even more important than Internet technology is Internet thinking.

IDEAS: "Was Paul Revere employing "Internet thinking" in 1775?

STEPHENSON: "Absolutely. In a loose alliance of seven overlapping groups planning for independence, Revere was a member of five -- he was what some network theorists call a "connector." But William Dawes, who also rode out to warn colonists on the night of April 18, 1775, didn't know as many rebels. Because Revere stopped at all the right farmhouses, activating a network of local leaders, people who lived along his route knew what was going on in a matter of hours. Those who lived along Dawes's route didn't find out until much later.

"Today, America finds itself fighting a networked enemy -- and this time we're the Redcoats, marching along in formation, waiting to receive orders from the top brass."

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This is a cool story, social networks in action in the 18C, yep indeedy, but I think it's better told by Malcolm Gladwell in THE TIPPING POINT. Here

Gladwell's interviewed at Amazon about the book, which people have heard about but not often read - is that Mark Twain's definition of a classic?

Posted by: Carl Caputo on 2 May 04

Wouldn't a better goal be to focus out how we can use internet thinking/technology as a means of breaking down barriers and enable people of different lifestyles and livelihoods to communicate and learn from one another?

Stop me if these sounds kind of touchy-feely, but I think that would have a more positive impact on terrorism than putting some kind of communal panic button in the hands of the public. People worried about terrorism drive terrorism (to a certain extent).

Posted by: Chris Evans on 4 May 04

My conclusion has been for while that $400 billion a year for defense is a total waste of money. On 9/11, the military, CIA, FBI did nothing to save anybody. All the lives were saved by the citizens, including police, firefighters.

The fight on Flight 93 is the prime example. Citizens will no longer wait and count on Big Gov to protect them.

With proper oversight, some training we can become the new Swiss. A nation that is an army, but does not have one.

Posted by: cheney_usa on 9 May 04



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